Zane is exceedingly quiet during dinner, his mind likely still reeling from the events of this afternoon.
Upon entering the office earlier today, Aurora’s voice popped into my head, warning me to not believe a word the visitors said, especially not the young Alpha named Caine.
“He lies,” she whispered before flooding my mind with a sickly scene of a woman attempting to seduce Zane but failing and claiming he raped her.
She then showed me his torture at the hands of his brother.
It was a lot of information to process at the time, but I knew my mate was innocent even before Aurora revealed the events to me.
Zane would never harm anyone.He is a man who has seen the ugly side of people, and a man who has faced rejection after rejection.
Despite all of his pain, however, he is never cruel.He is kind and patient, loving and nurturing, strong and beautiful.He is a man worth fighting for…and I will fight for him until the very end.
Agnes also seems to sense his anxiousness and attempts to sign with him but he shakes his head at her and does not respond, keeping whatever turmoil he’s feeling to himself.
It makes me angry to think his former Gamma would even try to take him back. How dare he set foot in River Moon and try to guilt trip him into fighting? “Mommy, why is Daddy sad?”
Kota whispers to me as he stuffs the last bite of his pastelitos (Salvadoran turnovers) in his mouth.
“He had a really rough day,” I reply, pushing away his hair and kissing his forehead.
“He just needs some time alone.”
Kota wipes his hands and curiously stares at Zane who seems lost in his own thoughts as he picks at his food.
Without a word, Kota climbs off his chair, bouncing on his toes as he walks to my mate, stopping just before his chair and resting his chin on the arm rest.
“Can we build a fort, Daddy?” Kota asks.
Kota’s voice startles Zane for a moment but he quickly composes himself and picks up our son, setting him down on his lap.
No words are exchanged as Zane holds Kota in his arms, his hand gently cradling Kota’s head and massaging his scalp.
After many years of being alone, it is a beautiful sight to see a man hold my baby with so much love and care, as if he were his own.
It is a comforting thought to know Kota will be loved not only by Gwen and I, but by Agnes and Zane as well.
Should something ever happen to me, Kota will always have a family.
“Kota, time for a bath,” I tell him, Kota shaking his head at me.
“Zane will build your fort and we can come join him when It is only after Zane gives him a stern look that Kota finally climbs off his lap and begrudgingly follows me up stairs for a bath.”
When we return downstairs, Zane is far more relaxed, having tucked away his emotions as he and Agnes adjust the last of the bed sheets over some chairs.
“D-done,” he smiles nervously as I carry Kota in for an inspection of the fort.
Satisfied with Zane and Agnes’ construction skills, Kota scrambles inside, burying himself under a pile of pillows and blankets.
“Can you read me a story?” he asks Zane, patting the space beside him.
Before anyone can answer, however, the sound of a knock at the door startles all of us.I hand Zane the book and answer the door, finding Evan waiting outside.
He smiles sheepishly, shifting his weight on his feet.
“I know it’s late…but there’s another visitor here for Zane,” Evan sighs.
Why could they not just leave him alone? I wonder, shaking my head disapprovingly.
“Can this wait until morning?” I ask, stealing a glance at Agnes and my mate currently trying to entertain Kota.
“Zane’s not done processing today’s earlier visit and the last thing he needs is more drama.Tell whoever it is to leave him alone.”
“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t urgent,” Evan responds.
“Hesitation makes my fingers itch to slam the door in Evan’s face and run to hide Zane away from everyone, but I know these foolish thoughts will do us no good.It is best to get this over with now, so I step aside and let Evan in while I ask Zane to instruct Agnes to put Kota to bed.
“Actually, Agnes should come along too,” Evan interjects.
“Aurora says this pertains to her as well.”
Zane furrows his brows in confusion, but he does not question Evan and grabs Kota and his coat.
The four of us anxiously follow Evan to the pack house, Kota yawning heavily in Zane’s arms as we make our way to the dining room.
We find Aurora and Oliver already sitting at the head of the table while a mysterious man sits with his back facing us.
Upon entering the room, I notice Agnes grow tense, her hands instinctively grabbing Zane’s bicep and pushing both him and I behind her like a shield.
Tears fill her eyes as she holds her defensive stance, the man turning around to face at us.
His salt and pepper hair is well groomed and combed up and to the side, his graying hairs the only real indication of his age.
His deep-set eyes are framed by two thick brows that make the gray in his irises pop.
A thin beard grows on his sculpted jawline and there is even a hint of a dimple on his right cheek.
He is quite handsome with an air of dominance surrounding him.He must be an Alpha, I tell myself as he eyes our family closely.
“Hello, Zane,” he says verbally in a voice rich like chocolate.
Zane does not appear to know who he is, but it becomes apparent Agnes does…and she does not like him.
The man rises to his feet, Agnes pushing us towards the exit as if she were afraid of the man getting any closer.He only chuckles softly to himself and steps back to give us some room.
“I’m afraid I do not yet know your name,” the man apologizes to me, a small smile on his lips.
“Talia,” I reply, the man repeating it to himself.
“Pleasure,” the man says.
“I am Toran.Toran Ravenstone.”
An audible gasp escapes my lips as I realize I am facing the man who destroyed whatever semblance of a family I once had.
The one who has caused all of my nightmares for the past 20 years.
A small chuckle bubbles in Toran’s chest when I hold Kota a little tighter and pull Talia closer to me.
“I do not wish to harm your family,” Toran explains when he notices my nervousness.
“My anger is reserved solely for your father.Please have a seat.We have much to discuss.”
There is nothing to discuss, I want to tell him but I eye Aurora for an explanation.
She can see my past, so why then, has she let “There’s more to this story than you understand,”
Aurora whispers in my head, walking over to Toran and gently placing her hand on his shoulder.
“Please, Zane.You’re going to want to see this,” Aurora pleads, gesturing to the table.
“Give Kota to Evan.He will watch over him while we talk.” The gamma takes Kota from my arms, promising to play with Rio as they leave.
My legs refuse to move, and I find it difficult to trust that Toran won’t try to hurt my family.He is, afterall, the root cause of all my pain, the reason my mother and brother are gone.
“There’s not much I can do to make you trust me, is there?” Toran sighs, settling back down on his chair.
“Your father, as much as I hate to admit it, has always been a very cunning man, even in childhood.He knew how to…how to twist the truth in just the right way that you would never think to doubt him.He used to get your uncle and I out of all kinds of trouble…”
And then you killed him…Grayson growls.Best friend of the year!
“There are always two sides to a story.You knew your father’s.It’s time you learned mine,”
Toran adds, pointing to the empty chairs.
“Please sit.If, after you hear me out, you want nothing to do with me, I will leave you in peace.Alpha’s honor,” he says, placing his hand over his heart.
You don’t have any honor…my family to the dining table, pulling Talia’s chair closer to mine.
Agnes seems on edge as she settles down besides me, her hands trembling as she fights to calm herself down.She flinches when I reach for her hand.
“She fears me for good reason,” Toran mutters.
“I was a different man the last time we met.”
I look at Agnes for a moment, wondering how on earth they could have met each other, but Toran offers an explanation.
“Agnes was once a member of Ravenstone…until I sent her to you,” he says quietly, shock washing over my face.
Even Grayson seems at a loss for words at the revelation and I look at the woman who has watched over me for the last 20 years as if she were a perfect stranger.
“Like I said,” Toran sighs tiredly.
“You only know one side of this story.” He suddenly sits up straighter and gestures to Aurora.
“Her Majesty tells me you are able to project memories.Would you like to see the truth behind this wicked war?” I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to see the mind of a psychopath, Grayson mutters.
You’re already messed up as it is.Thank you for that, I respond, my eyes flickering to Aurora for guidance.
“You deserve to see the truth,” she encourages.
“You’ll understand better.”
“You can do this,”
Talia murmurs, resting her chin on my Taking in a deep breath, I let down a wall, allowing Toran’s thoughts to trickle towards me like a small stream until it starts flowing like a roaring river and I find myself almost drowning in the pit of his mind.
It takes me a moment to calm myself down until the memories sort themselves out.
In the pitch black, I hear the sound of giggling echoing off in the distance and I follow it until a sudden flash of bright light blinds me.
My eyes burst open and like a movie projector, images take shape on the table for everyone to watch, but it seems only I can hear what is being said.
A young Toran laughs with my young uncle Cyrus, cracking jokes in a room full of people dressed lavishly in ball gowns and tuxedos.
The marble floors glisten under the lights and everyone holds a drink in their hands.
From across the room, a beautiful woman wearing a blue gown and tiara smiles innocently in their direction.
The look in her eyes is tender and loving, although I cannot make out who she is looking at.She raises her glass at Cyrus and Toran and then turns to dance with King Arthur.
“You know marrying her doesn’t make you the Fated Pair,” Cyrus whispers in Toran’s ears, Toran roaring with laughter.
“I’m fully aware,” Toran replies, smiling to himself.
“But that doesn’t matter.I really like her and I think we will make a decent match.”
“Are you sure about this though?” Cyrus asks.
“You’d be you.”
“Cy, I know what I am getting into,” Toran replies.
“I can’t explain it but …there is something about Breanna that just…makes me happy.I’m going to marry her, not for love but for the good of the Kingdom.She will need a steady king to rule beside her and I believe myself to be capable of supporting her.I gave her my word that I could.”
“I couldn’t do it,” Cyrus shakes his head.
“I couldn’t give up my mate for a title.”
“And that’s exactly why King Arthur picked me instead of you, ” Toran laughs.
“A true king must make sacrifices for his people.”
“Hell of a sacrifice,” Cyrus mutters, both he and Toran watching Breanna dance with her father.
The ballroom and people fade away, morphing into a scene between just Toran and Cyrus walking along a lake.
“Any luck on a mate?” Toran asks, a small smile on his lips.
“Nope,” Cyrus shakes his head and sighs.
“How is married life treating you”.
A light blush colors Toran’s cheeks and he looks sheepishly at the lake.
“Don’t tell me you’re actually falling in love with the Princess?”
Cyrus scoffs in surrender.
“She’s just…not your mate,” he offers.
“But she is my wife,” Toran retorts, a look of anger in his eyes.
“And I…can’t explain it.I told you.It just feels good being around her, ya know? She’s funny but knows when it’s time to be serious.She is brave and very talented in the training grounds.I’ve learned about all of her quirks and I don’t know, they just mesmerize me,” he shrugs.
“It’s good that you’re getting along, but what’s going to happen if she finds her mate?” Cyrus questions.
“Or better yet, what if you find your mate?”
“Why do you always have to bring up the fact that we are not mates?” Toran snarls.
Cyrus goes quiet for a moment.
“Because one day, someone may just take her from you and I don’t want to see you get hurt.”
Various memories flood my mind of Bre and Toran spending time together, laughing in an arcade, watching movies, going to meetings, and being a perfect couple.
There is one memory that seems so mundane yet so beautiful.It’s just Toran sitting on a couch, Breanna resting her head on his lap while he reads to her.
There’s a lazy smile on her lips as she looks up at him, a hint of adoration in her eyes as she listens to his story.
They seemed so in love…so how then, did he have the guts to kill her? darkness once more.
A loud scream rings in my ears and I sprint in its direction, quickly finding myself in a forest.
Toran rushes through the trees, a look of fear in his eyes as he approaches his Pack house.He knocks the door down with a powerful kick, running into the living room at full speed.
On the couch, I see Breanna wheezing softly, Cyrus hunched over her with a bloody blade in his hand.
“Cyrus?” Toran whimpers, his eyes falling on the blade.
“W-what …what are you- What did you do? WHAT DID YOU DO?”
“She was supposed to be my mate,” Cyrus mutters, wiping the blood from the blade with his shirt.
“We were supposed to be the Fated Pair,” he chuckles to himself.
“But the spell wore off and she found out that you…”
“That I what?”
Before he can say another word, Cyrus creates a high pitched frequency, debilitating Toran so that he crashes onto his knees and covers his ears in agony.
Cyrus manages to escape with the distraction and once the pain subsides, Toran crawls to his wife and tends to her.
Upon touching her wound, his eyes suddenly widen in shock.
Bre smiles up at him as a little blood trickles down her nose, reaching a hand to caress his cheek.
“M-mate,” she coughs out, wiping the blood on her lips.